What do people want to see when they visit Northern Thailand? The White Temple is probably at the top of the list, it was mine. But there is so much more on offer in this City. Let me guide you through some of the well known and lesser known sights of Chiang Rai and the surrounding areas. This is what you can experience when you are in and around remarkable Chiang Rai.
Chiang Rai Street Markets
Ever fancy eating something slightly out of the norm? Well then you are in the right place! We came across bugs, traditional food, street food and so much more! Our favourite was a Korean stall we stumbled across at a local festival. It served traditional sticky Korean chicken, It tasted so good we sought it out the next day and went for the ‘hot’ version! Amazing!
I love how crazy different cultures can be sometimes. And right here in Chiang Rai we found this lovely little cafe ‘Cat ‘n a Cup’ where you guessed it, you can have lunch with cats! It seemed really well done as the cats had a variety of places up high to escape when they had had their fill of being petted. Most of them were more than happy being fed & tickled though. Hand sanitising was available upon exit. A quirky quiet place to while away half an hour or so.
Temples Up Hills
There is nothing my husband loves more than me finding yet another temple which has many steps to reach it! Especially when the temple itself is up a long hill in the heat of the day! They are dotted all around Chiang Rai, I love the Nagas lining the staircase here. This one was north east of the centre of town les than a half hour walk.
The Chiang Rai White Temple
A short tuk tuk journey out of town is where this beautiful but quirky White Temple is located. Completely white (hence its nickname) and covered in mirrored tiles it glistens. You can go inside via the walkway which is surrounded my moats of hands reaching up! A bit creepy! Once inside turn around and take a look at the wall you just entered through. There is a hand drawn mural which needs a second look. Can you spot Harry Potter, a minion and Elvis? What else can you see?
Pop To Myanmar
For just $10 you can get a day pass to visit Myanmar passing over one of the Friendship Bridges. We thought this was a brilliant idea and got us an extra stamp in our passport. Granted, you cant go too deep in to the Country in a day but it gives you a little taste. Certainly instantly visibly poorer than its neighbour, it has its own charm the moment you enter. We felt a little uneasy handing our passports in and receiving a little piece of paper in return. However we shouldn’t have worried at all, the process entering and exiting was very smooth. There is even a little duty free shop if it’s not already cheap enough for you in Thailand!
The Golden Triangle
The whole area is called the Golden Triangle when you arrive in Chiang Rai. However the point where the two main rivers meet and you can see Myanmar, & Laos whilst standing in Thailand is where the triangle actually is. There is a lovely little town here and obviously a temple up on a hill too where you actually get the view of the three countries.
Huaisai Man View Point
We stopped at this lovely view point on our journey from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong. The sun was setting, there was a little cafe to buy refreshments and the scenery was stunning!
Visit the laid back Chiang Khong
The reason we stayed here at all was because it was the closest we could get to the Friendship Bridge with Laos. We wished we had more time here though as it turned out to be a really cute place! I looked on Trip Advisor for the closest local restaurant, found one, off we went. It didn’t start well to be honest. We weren’t shown a menu and the chef/owner told us we were having green Thai curry. That was fine by us, so we sat and had a beer while she huffed off to cook. The meal was fantastic, I’m pleased we didn’t get a choice. And then it turned hilarious when her family turned up for their dinner.
They started talking to us about where we were from etc. Somehow we got on to the topic that we had been to Buckingham Palace Garden party last year and showed them photos of us there. This is when it got weird/hilarious. They obviously got very confused as to who were were not as they knelt next to us, stroking our hands calling us Prince & Princess!!! I was like ‘no no no, you have got it wrong’. They seriously thought we were Royalty! Then they couldn’t offer us enough food etc….time to go!!! Bless!
Fish & Monkey Cave (& Viewpoint)
This temple complex just outside Chiang Rai has several attractions on offer and is free to enter (donation boxes are dotted around if you wish). Not only do you have several beautiful temples to photograph; one being set precariously on a cliff edge, another in a cave! But if you can manage the several hundred step climb upwards then a dragon lined staircase takes you to a platform with beautiful panoramic views of the countryside.
There is a large pond full of fish (hence the other part of the temple name) which also bizarrely has a floating cycling skeleton on the bridge you can cross.
Beware of the cheeky monkeys that inhabit this temple, they will steal anything loose you have. When entering the temple I highly recommend borrowing one of the free bamboo canes supplied to ward them off! You can buy food for them on site, this may attract more than you wanted though.
Have a Chiang Rai coffee
Love a coffee? Well try a local cup and see what you think! The one we had at this coffee shop near the Monkey & Fish Temple was lush. Certainly perked us up after our early start and long journey.
Visit the Beautiful Doi Son Botanical Garden
About an hour away from Chiang Rai, up in the hills is the Princess’s Palace and gardens. We didn’t have time to do both unfortunately, so as it was a nice day we explored the gardens. They were stunning, I’ve never seen so many orchids in my life! Well worth a visit, good value for money too.
Karon Village – Chiang Rai
The tribes are authentic, however the setup is very staged. We wished we had known this before but went with it when we arrived. There are actually four tribes in these grounds. All living separately a short walk from each other, and all selling their goods. The Karon tribe are very recognisable by the rings they wear around their neck. Another tribe all sang and danced for us, slightly awkward when we didn’t want to buy anything! An interesting place to visit none the less.
Chiang Rai Flower Festival
Our timing for this was spot on, and a pure coincidence! The town was having its yearly flower festival which had taken over streets & the large park. So many beautiful flower displays and more than enough street food & beer to keep you fuelled to walk around it all. All less than five minutes from our hotel! Wonderful!
King Mengrai Clocktower
On one of the main roundabouts in the City is a very large golden Clocktower, right in the centre. At night it’s illuminated and there is a light show from around 7pm.
Go To Laos
Yes, I do mean go to a different country again, this time the beautiful Laos. You are already right by the border, and in Chiang Khong there is Friendship bridge where you cross over. Take a trip down the Mekong and end up in Luang Prabang, a city you simply cannot go through life without ever seeing!